Setting Up Guest Mode So That Someone Else Can Use Your Android Phone

    Though you may never have noticed, your Android phone can support multiple user accounts in much the same way as Windows and macOS, and while you probably don’t share your smartphone with too many people on a daily basis, there is a guest mode feature that can be helpful if you ever need to lend your phone to a family member, friend or colleague.

    Here we will walk you through the process of enabling guest mode and also explain how it works. The instructions below are for the latest version of Android 13 on a Google Pixel 6 Pro, but if you’re using a different version of Android or a different manufacturer’s phone there shouldn’t be too much of a difference in how to proceed or the features available (a a quick web search can usually help if you get stuck).

    To start, you need to actually enable multiple users on your Android device, which is done by opening up Settings and then choosing System and Multiple users. Turn on the Allow multiple users toggle switch, and you’re then able add new users to the device (Add user), as well as enable Guest Mode (Add guest).

    First, you need to enable multiple users.

    Opt for Add Guest and you’re presented with a very basic settings screen: there’s an option to switch to the guest account, an option to enable or disable phone calls in guest mode, and an option to remove the guest account. You cannot add multiple guests at the same time. So, if more than one person needs access to your handset on a regular basis, you need to start creating users.

    Incidentally, creating new users is a more complicated process: it’s like setting up your phone for the first time. The new user needs a Google account (at least if they want to use Google apps or download something from the Play Store), they can set their own screen unlock method, and so on. If you choose simplicity, choose guest mode. If you really share the phone with someone else all the time, add them as a user.

    The user option is also the top choice if you have a child who uses your phone regularly, rather than a nephew or niece who occasionally borrows it to play a game or two. You can add a child account from your Google family group and manage what your child can do on the device.

    For now we’re focusing on guest mode, and you can switch to it from the System and Multiple Users page, or by swiping two fingers down from the top of the screen and tapping the User Account button at the bottom of the quick settings panel. You can use the same methods to go back to your standard account.

    If your guest wants to download apps or check Gmail, they’ll have to enter a Google account, which they can use if they want, but this defeats the point of using guest mode at all. Apps like Google Chrome and YouTube can be used without signing in, and phone calls can be made if you allowed the feature when you initially configured guest mode.

    What really sets guest mode apart from a full user account is how easy it is to start all over again. Each time you switch to guest mode, you’ll be asked if you want to continue the previous session (Yes, continue) or erase everything and start over (Restart). This includes Google accounts that the guest has logged into, websites that the guest has opened in Chrome, and so on.

    There’s also no way guests can access the files or messages on your phone: everything from your text messages to your emails to your saved photos is locked and inaccessible. Guests also can’t switch to a different WiFi network, and as you’d expect, they can’t reset your phone either.

    Guest mode also offers some privacy protections for the guest: when they’re done with their work, they can go to the switch account screen (via Settings or at the bottom of the Quick Settings panel) and then select “Remove Guest”, from which all traces of what they have done will be erased and logs them out of all their accounts.

    Android includes a useful feature to keep an eye on the effects of guest mode on your device. If you open Settings and then select Storage and scroll to the bottom of the list Guest, you can see how much storage space your guest account and other user accounts are using on the phone.

    So there you have a feature built right into Android that may be completely irrelevant to some users, but will be very helpful to other users, and is pretty easy to use (especially once you’ve set it up). For now, at least, there’s no comparable option for iOS.

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